A resource for those in the trenches of legal industry innovation.
Here at Legal Evolution, we like to experiment. Thus, I was intrigued when Anusia (ah-new-sha) Gillespie suggested a NewLaw explainer series in the form of a monthly Q&A column, which debuts today. See Post 243.
Over the last several years, the term “NewLaw” has taken on a remarkably broad meaning. In its original incarnation, NewLaw was meant to convey “New points of view, new perspectives, new market offerings, new tools, new ways to manage.” George Beaton, “Who coined NewLaw?,” Remaking Law Firms, Aug 18, 2018 (quoting 2009 Kerma Partners Quarterly article by Michael Huber).
However, the term did not get significant traction until 2013, when Eric Chin, then an Associate at Beaton Global, wrote an article titled, “2018: The Year Axiom Becomes the World’s Largest Legal Services Firm.” Chin commented that he coined the term to describe Axiom and similar firms (Riverview Law, Keystone Law, Advant Balance) that seemed poised to compete with BigLaw, albeit with a much lower cost structure. See Id. One of the many ironies here is that Axiom cannot be fairly described as “new,” as it was founded in 1999. It’s also substantially owned and controlled by a large PE shop that, 22 years later, is still waiting for the big Axiom liquidity event.
Yet, in the meantime, things have come full circle. In October 2020, David Cunningham, the Chief Innovation Officer at Reed Smith and formerly the Chief Information Officer at Winston & Strawn, wrote that “NewLaw is not what you think it is,” essentially making the claim that NewLaw, particularly when combined with metrics, is a business model —”tech-intensive defined processes, lawyers and business professionals blended on teams, incentives for efficiency”—that any service provider can deploy, including large law firms. See Post 206.
Anusia and I think that Cunningham’s more capacious view of NewLaw is likely to stick, as it speaks to the types of solutions that many legal professionals in many organizations are trying to build. If NewLaw is new to them, and it resonates, that’s all that matters.
NewLaw Fundamentals will appear monthly on Legal Evolution. It is designed to be a resource for the hundreds (and someday, thousands) of legal innovation professionals who need to win over a skeptical audience. “Here, this column discusses the problem we are solving [or facing].” Short, clear, and nontechnical, so stakeholders can avoid confusion or embarrassment. This is not the usual Legal Evolution fare. But it’s important to the broader cause.
FYI, Post 241 puts a very big frame around Anusia’s NewLaw Fundamentals Q&A column. It looks at the big unresolved strategy questions surrounding NewLaw and, in turn, connects it to the difficult, thankless work of winning over stakeholders and delivering results. This is Anusia’s day job. If she does it well, she gets to return to the trenches to do it again. The throughline in all of this is humility, which is on full display in Anusia’s inaugural column.